As we continue our series on the Seven Deadly Sins, we arrive at gluttony after having already covered both sloth and envy. In many ways, gluttony is the opposite of sloth. While some may see sloth as a distinct lack of action, gluttony is a very specific action—consumption—done to excess. And yet, many will find that despite this difference, sloth and gluttony often seem to go hand-in-hand with one another. This is especially true when these traits are exhibited by the addict or alcoholic.
Continuing the trend that we have set with our previous articles in this series, we will begin our discussion of gluttony by examining the general definition that led to this particular character defect becoming a sin. In this case, however, we will also be broadening the definition just a bit so that addicts and alcoholics may see how many of their actions have often been gluttonous. This will not take much effort, especially considering that addiction is essentially a life full of excess gratification.
The good news is that whenever one of our character defects can be broken down into such basic essentials, the same may often be said of its solution. There is no exception here, and it is actually fairly easy to detail some of the primary solutions that may do you well when trying to let go of gluttony and embrace a more virtuous way of living. In fact, the only part that may prove truly difficult is actually doing everything in your power to let go of your old habits. But that is precisely what we are here to help you do. We sincerely hope that the following may be of use to you.
Defining Gluttony as a Cardinal Sin
When people think of gluttony, they generally picture something with more severe connotations than a simple act of overeating. While this may be a part of it, the primary aspect of gluttony to note is that a gluttonous person will generally care about little other than their own need for consumption. They eat selfishly, caring either little or not at all whether anybody else is able to feed themselves. As long as the glutton has had their fill, then nobody else’s wants or needs are deemed important by comparison.
The definition of gluttony has some fairly old roots. According to Thomas Aquinas, there were essentially six types of gluttony that could be committed. The first, and perhaps most well-known, was the act of eating too much. Frequently accompanying this form in the common perception of gluttony was the act of eating too eagerly. Then there were those who were viewed as having eaten too expensively, spending lavish amounts on their food for no other reason than that they were able. Another form is eating wildly, something which could be deemed as similar to eating too eagerly, although with even less regard for table manners. The fifth type is those who eat too soon, as in before the table is set or others have arrived.
The sixth type of glutton is he or she that eats too daintily. This might confuse some, but the standard description given for this form of gluttony is putting an inordinate amount of care or concern into the act of simple dining. By this notion, it may seem as if everyone on Iron Chef were a glutton for plating their food, but the point is simply that gluttons will make a show of things while not considering that many are lucky to even put food on the table. In their selfishness, the glutton is someone who takes their luxuries for granted. They simply have no sense of gratitude for the gift of sustenance.
While we have mostly been talking about the consumption of food, note that many other forms of consumption may be viewed as gluttonous. In fact, as addicts and alcoholics, we probably indulged ourselves in all six types of gluttony when consuming our drink or drug of choice. We did not need an excuse to be excessive; for us, excess was simply a natural way of living. And in the process of adopting this lifestyle, it is quite likely that many of us suffered great harm as a result.
Gluttony’s Role in Active Addiction
We have in many ways touched on this in the above paragraph, but gluttony’s major role in active addiction is priming us to be selfish and excessive with little or no regard for others. This will have the same effects on our lives as any other form of selfishness that we may display during our active addiction. People will find themselves unable to recognize who we are becoming, and they will slowly begin to turn away. This will result in loneliness and isolation, each of which will become a cause for us to continue our substance abuse with a fury.
There are many health risks involved in gluttony as well. Whether the glutton in question is simply greedy or suffering from binge eating disorder, one can rest assured that their primary focus will not be on exercise and proper nutrition. As they let go of these pursuits, their mental abilities will begin to slip as well. Maintaining proper nutrition for mental health is no menial task, and takes great attention and care. And if we are gluttonous in our consumption of drugs and alcohol, these effects will be even worse. We may even put ourselves at risk of dying from overdose if we are not careful.
Gluttony will also put a financial drain on us. Whatever we happen to be consuming, we will find that we need more and more as time wears on. As we begin to reach the point at which we never seem to feel quite satisfied, we may check our bank accounts only to find that we have spent far more as a result of our gluttony than we would ever spend when still of sound mind and reason. But remember that gluttony is essentially a wild animal, devoid of all such sense. When it overtakes us, “sound mind” is not really much of an option anymore.
Between the rates of consumption and the sheer selfishness in how we went about it, there is little doubt that gluttony was present through much of our active addiction phase. Perhaps some were gluttonous in their drug use but not so much in their eating habits. For some, perhaps eating itself was the addiction. Then there are those of us who consumed food, drugs and alcohol in equal measure, attempting to fill some sort of internal void. But try as we might, we could never see that void filled. Now that we have entered recovery, we just may have the perfect opportunity to begin filling it.
Overcoming Gluttony in Recovery
There are a few ways to handle gluttony in recovery, largely revolving around the adoption of basic principles. Note that those with binge eating disorder will require the help of licensed professionals to overcome their condition. But those who simply succumb to gluttony on occasion might be able to overcome this particular character defect by treating it like any other addiction. They must first admit that they have a problem with control, then seek more enlightened methods of filling the void that their consumption has yet to fill.
There is actually a group called Overeaters Anonymous, for those who tend to veer toward the more traditional definition of gluttony. For those who gluttonously consume drugs or alcohol, the typical Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups will be just fine. Within these rooms, you will hear stories of others for whom there has been no greater challenge than the need to control their rates of consumption. By speaking to these people, you will enable yourself to build up a support network of individuals who will be there for you when you feel that empty hole inside of you beckoning to be filled.
Leaning on others and voicing your emotions with them will often help you refrain from doing something you might regret. Even so, your inability to control your inhibitions will not be instantly cured. And if you’re the type who sometimes struggles with trust, having a list of contacts will not mean anything because you might not be inclined to call them when you most need to. Instead, you must engage in self-reflection and try to find the source of the emptiness that you are trying to fill. Zen sitting meditation and walking meditation will help clear your head to make this task a bit easier. With each meditation, it should take you less and less time to get over your compulsive urges. Work on making your life more fulfilling in the meantime, and your gluttony will soon become a distant memory.
Many addicts and alcoholics do not turn to gluttony until after they have gotten sober. Out of need to binge on something, they may choose their meals as a fitting replacement. Then there are those who have always been a bit gluttonous, and find that removing their other addictions has failed to turn this one off. Whichever class of glutton describes you best, do not let the emptiness inside derive you of a more virtuous lifestyle. With enough self-reflection and a healthy dose of help from others, you can beat this. It may take time, patience and effort, but you can do it. Just visualize who you want to become and begin taking the necessary steps in that direction. Once you have done so, you will find yourself on the path to a better life for years to come.